Saul visits a medium at the town of Endor

Chapter 28

v1 Later, the *Philistines gathered their army to fight the *Israelites. Achish said to David, ‘You must realise that you and your men must join my army’.

v2 David said, ‘Yes, I am your servant. You will see what I can do’.

Achish replied, ‘Good. For the rest of your life you will protect me’.

In those days, if people went to live in a different country, they had to fight in the army of that country. So David and his men had to join the *Philistine army. In verse 2, David’s reply to Achish was not very clear. David knew that he had to join the *Philistines’ army. But he did not want to fight the *Israelites. However, Achish thought that David was loyal to him. The man who protected the king was very important. Achish trusted David to do this job. Kings often have foreign soldiers to protect them. They are afraid that a soldier from their own country might try to become king.

Saul visits a medium at the town of Endor

v3 Samuel was dead by this time. All the *Israelites had been very sad and had cried. They buried Samuel in his home town of Ramah. There used to be *spiritists and *mediums in *Israel but Saul had removed them.

v4 The *Philistines gathered and camped near the town of Shunem. Saul gathered the *Israelite army and camped at the mountain of Gilboa. v5 Saul saw the *Philistine army. He was afraid and he became full of terror. v6 Saul asked the *Lord what he should do. But the *Lord did not answer him in a dream, or by the *Urim or by a *prophet. v7 So Saul said to his servants, ‘Go. Find a woman who is a *medium. I will go to her. I will ask her what will happen’.

His servants said, ‘There is a *medium at the town of Endor’.

v8 Saul put on ordinary clothes. No one recognised that he was the king. At night, Saul and two of his men went to see the woman. Saul said, ‘Call the spirit of a certain man. Talk to his spirit for me’.

v9 But the woman said, ‘You know what King Saul has done. He has removed all the *spiritists and *mediums from *Israel. Are you trying to catch me so that you can kill me?’

v10 Then Saul made a serious promise to the woman. He said, ‘I promise the *Lord that no one will punish you for this’.

Verse 3 explains why the events of this chapter happened. Samuel, who was the great *prophet of the *Lord, had died. Samuel spoke God’s commands to Saul. *Spiritists and *mediums are people, often women, who try to contact dead people. In those days people believed that a dead person’s spirit lived under the ground. And they thought that some people had power to contact these spirits. In Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:11 God says that the *Israelites must not do this. They had to kill anyone who did this. In verses 9 and 21, ‘removed’ probably means killed. The Spirit of the *Lord was with Saul when he first became king. So he probably removed the *spiritists and *mediums at that time.

Until now the *Philistines had attacked the southern part of the country of *Israel (usually in *Judah). This time they attacked in the north of *Israel. They were trying to take over the whole country. This was a very serious attack. The two armies camped about 24 kilometres (15 miles) apart. The *Israelites were on higher land. They could see the *Philistines in the valley. Saul was afraid (see also 17:11, 24). In 22:6-23:6, Saul killed the priests at Nob. But one priest escaped and took the *ephod (with the *Urim and Thummim) to David. (Read notes on chapter 14 about the *ephod.) So Saul could not ask God for directions with the *ephod and the *Urim. Samuel the *prophet was dead. And God did not speak to Saul in a dream. So Saul could not hear God. The *Israelites had not trusted the *Lord. They wanted a king to lead their army (8:20). Now the king failed to lead them. Many people only pray to God when they are in trouble. But God wants people to confess their *sins. God is patient, but he will not wait for ever. God gave Saul many chances but now he would not speak to him.

Saul was desperate. He knew that Samuel had been a great *prophet. Saul wanted to hear God’s decisions from Samuel again. So Saul went against his own law and the Law of God. Saul’s servants found a *medium that had escaped from Saul’s law. People recognised that Saul was the king. This was because he wore a special royal coat. So he took this coat off before he went to the *medium. He visited her at night. He did not want anyone to see him. Also, *mediums often worked at night. The *medium suspected that the men were trying to catch her. In verse 10 Saul said ‘I promise the *Lord’. This means that he made a serious promise. But Saul was not obeying the law of the *Lord. Saul was wrong to used the *Lord’s name for this promise.

v11 The woman said, ‘Whose spirit do you want me to call?’

Saul replied, ‘Call for Samuel’.

v12 The woman screamed when she saw Samuel. She said to Saul, ‘You did not tell me the truth. You are King Saul’.

v13 King Saul said to her, ‘Do not be afraid. Tell me what you can see’.

She said, ‘I can see a spirit that is coming up from the ground’.

v14 Saul asked, ‘What does he look like?’

She said, ‘An old man is coming up from the ground. He is wearing a coat’.

Saul knew that this was Samuel. Saul knelt down and his face touched the ground.

v15 Samuel said, ‘Why have you disturbed me? Why have you called me back?’

Saul said, ‘I am in great trouble. The *Philistines are fighting against me. God has left me. He will not answer me by the *prophets or in dreams. So I have called for you. Tell me what I should do’.

v16 Samuel said, ‘The *Lord has left you and become your enemy. So why did you call to me? v17 I told you what the *Lord would do. And he has done it. The *Lord has taken the *kingdom away from you. He has given it to David instead. v18 The *Lord has done this to you because you did not obey him. You did not show the *Amalekites that God was very angry with them. v19 The *Lord will hand over *Israel and you to the *Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will die. The *Lord will also hand over the *Israelite army to the *Philistines’.

v20 Saul immediately fell and he lay flat on the ground. He was afraid because of what Samuel had said. Saul was also very weak because he had eaten nothing all that day and night.

v21 Then the *medium came to Saul. She saw that he was very frightened. She said, ‘I, your servant, have obeyed you. I did what you told me to do. And I risked my life. v22 Please listen to me now. I want to give you some food to eat. Then you will be strong enough to travel’.

v23 Saul refused and said, ‘I will not eat’.

But the *medium and Saul’s two servants kept persuading him. So Saul did what they said. He got up from the ground and sat down on a bed.

v24 The woman had a fat young cow. She quickly went and killed it. Then she got some flour and made some flat bread. v25 She gave the food to Saul and his men and they ate it. They left while it was still night time.

We do not know how the woman called for Samuel. She may have had a *vision of Samuel or she may have seen his spirit. But the Bible says that we must not find out about such things. They are evil. We do not know what had happened. But the woman was afraid of what she saw. The stranger who was in her house was king Saul. Somehow, she knew that. In verse 14 ‘coat’ probably refers to the *prophet’s special coat (15:28). In verse 14, it seems that Saul could not see anything. But he knelt down to give honour to Samuel. Samuel repeated God’s message to Saul. Nothing could change what God had already done. But Samuel added a new message. The next day the *Lord would let the *Philistines defeat the *Israelites. And Saul and his sons would die.

This message made Saul fall on the ground because he was so afraid. He probably had not eaten that day because he was so worried about the *Philistine army. The *medium knew that Saul needed to be strong for his journey. So she quickly prepared a meal. She did not have enough time to let the bread mixture rise. So she made flat bread. Saul and his two men left in secret. It was still dark.